Superb Gallery at Titirangi
Lopdell House (the old Hotel Titirangi)
Auckland gets a bad rap from the provinces. Indeed its rapid growth renders much of it intolerable. Not so for the leafy suburb of Titirangi.
I spent Christmas there with family, leaving great weather in Nelson for low cloud and drizzle in West Auckland. I guess if you want lush forest, that’s what you get. Titirangi, like Nelson is an enclave for artists, and was the home to luminaries such as painter ‘Colin McCahon’, photographer ‘Brian Brake’ click here (you’re sure to recognise some of his images). Potter, ‘Len Castle’ click here (google search), and writer Maurice Shadbolt .
It’s bush all the way from my daughters place to the village, often with no one in sight until a car appeared on the narrow bendy road. On the edge of the village is Lopdell House and Te Uru (The Waitakere Contemporary Gallery).
Lopdell House started life in 1930 as the Titirangi Hotel, but was never granted a liquor licence. It was the proverbial pub with no beer; doomed from the start. In 1942 it was used as a residential school for the deaf. In 1960 it was renamed Lopdell House (after the superintendent of education) and became a teacher training facility. In 1984 the building was bought by the Waitakere County Council as a base for the Titirangi Community Arts Council.
In 2002 deterioration of the building had reached a point where a group of volunteers were motivated to do something about it.. The building was never ideal as a gallery. There are too many windows and not enough walls. The ambitious goal was set to create a new gallery on the small remaining area of land along side Lopdell House.
The Waitakere City Council (under the Mayoralty of Tim Shadbolt) got behind the cause as did the Auckland Council when the super city was formed in 2010. This gave philanthropic investors such as ASB Community Trust and the Lotteries Commission confidence that the project was viable and major contributions followed.
Construction was started in 2012 and completed in 2014. Mitchell Stout Architects had come up with a building that wasn’t pretty from the outside mainly because it crowds the gracious Lopdell House. It’s quality is revelled upon stepping inside. You encounter polished concrete walls and floors, and a quiet calm. It’s five galleries are spread over three floors. There is no fussiness to distract you from the pieces on display, just a sense that there could hardly be a better place for exhibiting art..
My visit coincided with New Zealand’s premier ceramics competition (Royce McGlashen had a piece on display).
The reward for climbing, (or riding in the elevator) to the top, is a bird’s eye view of a Titirangi streetscape and the Manakau Harbour beyond. Pohutakawas were in bloom, and for me it brought to mind paintings by Nelson artist Marilyn Andrews.
From our vantage point in Nelson, Auckland may seem like sprawling mayhem, but Titirangi still has the feel of what it has been, and is home to a sublime gallery.
Feb 03, 2017 • Peter Owen